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What You Need to Know About Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancer is the second most common gynecologic cancer in women ages 35-74. An estimated one woman in 78 will develop ovarian cancer during her lifetime. If you or someone in your family has ovarian cancer, knowing what to expect can help you cope. National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month is important because there is so much that women don't know about their bodies and how they can be proactive about their health.

Ovarian cancer is the second most common gynecologic cancer in women ages 35 to 74. An estimated 1 in 78 will develop ovarian cancer during her lifetime. If you or someone in your family has ovarian cancer, knowing what to expect can help you cope. National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month is important because there is so much that women don’t know about their bodies and how they can be proactive about their health. Here, you can learn about ovarian cancer, including risk factors, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment.

Knowing Your Risk

There is no way to know for sure if you will get ovarian cancer. Most women get it without being at high risk. However, several factors may increase a woman’s risk for ovarian cancer, including:

Middle-aged or older

  • Close family members (such as your mother, sister, aunt, or grandmother) on either your mother’s or your father’s side who have had ovarian cancer
  • Genetic mutation (abnormality) or one associated with Lynch syndrome
  • Had breast, uterine, or colon cancer
  • Have an Eastern European or Ashkenazi Jewish background
  • Have endometriosis (a condition where tissue from the uterus’s lining grows elsewhere in the body)
  • Have never given birth or have had trouble getting pregnant

According to the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition, an estimated 15 percent of ovarian cancer diagnoses are linked to genetic predisposition or hereditary factors passed down through family genes. A positive test result from genetic testing cannot tell whether or when an individual will actually develop cancer but instead helps stratify risk. Our CCP physicians can help explain genetic testing and determine if you are a candidate.

While one or more risk factors may increase your chance of developing ovarian cancer, it does not necessarily mean you will get the disease, according to the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition. If you have one or more risk factors, it’s important to be extra vigilant in watching for early symptoms.

What to Do to Reduce Your Risk

There is no known way to prevent ovarian cancer completely, but some things can reduce a woman’s risk of developing the disease, which include:

  • Having used birth control for five or more years
  • Breastfeeding or pregnancy
  • Getting your tubes tied, one or both ovaries removed, or a hysterectomy
  • Having a healthy diet and daily exercise

Recognize the Symptoms

Ovarian cancer is difficult to detect, especially during the early stages. But ovarian cancer may cause the following signs and symptoms:

  • Bloating
  • Pelvic or abdominal pain
  • Trouble eating or feeling full quickly
  • Feeling the need to urinate urgently or often

Other symptoms can include:

  • Fatigue
  • Upset stomach or heartburn
  • Back pain
  • Pain during sex
  • Constipation or menstrual changes

(Source: National Ovarian Cancer Coalition)

The best thing you can do is be diligent about getting regular health exams. Pay attention to your body and know what is normal for you. If you have unusual vaginal bleeding, see a doctor right away. If you have any other signs for two weeks or longer that are not typical for you, visit your doctor. While many ovarian cancer symptoms are also symptoms of conditions other than cancer, it’s essential to be open and honest with your doctor if you experience any changes in your body or habits.

What to Know About Cancer Screening

Community Care OB/GYN and primary care providers are dedicated to screening and diagnosing ovarian, cervical, uterine, vaginal, and vulvar cancers. There is no simple and reliable way to screen for ovarian cancer. The Pap test does not check for ovarian cancer, only cervical cancer. But there are tests available to women, especially those at high risk for disease.

  • Pelvic Exam. All women 18 and older should have vaginal exams every year. Women who are 35 and older should receive annual rectovaginal exams.
  • Transvaginal Sonography. This test is for women at high risk for ovarian cancer or those with an abnormal pelvic exam.
  • CA-125 Test. This blood test determines if the level of CA-125, protein produced by ovarian cancer cells, has increased in the blood of high-risk women or women with abnormal pelvic exams.

If any of these tests are positive, you should consult with a gynecologic oncologist, who may conduct a CT scan and evaluate the test results. However, the only way to more accurately confirm an ovarian cancer diagnosis is with a biopsy.

Since there is no consistently reliable way to screen for any gynecologic cancer except for cervical cancer, it is especially important to recognize warning signs and learn what you can do to reduce your risk of ovarian cancer.

Ovarian Cancer Treatment

If your doctor says that you have ovarian, fallopian tube, or primary peritoneal cancers, ask to be referred to a gynecologic oncologist. Gynecologic oncologists can perform surgery and develop treatment plans for women with ovarian cancer. The treatment plan usually involves a combination of surgery and chemotherapy. Choosing the treatment that is right for you may be challenging. We are pleased to have Nurse Navigators as part of our Cancer Care Program at CCP to help patients and families through the complex world of cancer screening, diagnosis, treatment, and follow-up care to make their experience as seamless as possible. Our navigators are a resource for all questions relating to a patient’s care. For more information or questions about our genetic testing, cancer screening, diagnosis, and treatment services, contact us at (518) 213-0305. We can help you determine which type of doctor or services you need (both internally within CCP and externally if required).

Obstetrics & Gynecology Care at CCP

Each stage in a woman’s life brings unique changes. Community Care is here to guide you through these milestones. Whether looking for a doctor for your first gynecologist appointment, planning a family, or searching for guidance for post-menopause, Community Care can provide you with quality women’s care services throughout the generations. CCP brings together physicians specializing in obstetrics and gynecological care in convenient locations across the Capital Region. Our practices are centered on our patients and strive to provide a relaxed, caring, and comforting environment.

Capital Region Women’s Care, with offices in Troy, Delmar, and Clifton Park, take great pride in their training, clinical ability, and dedication to patient care. Our providers are here for you from the time you find out you are pregnant through your delivery. Our physicians, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners provide obstetrics and gynecology services for women of all ages – from adolescence through menopause. From routine visits to moments requiring extra care, we are committed to providing individual care, education, constant respect, and quality and advanced medical services. We offer our patients unique on-site services, multiple locations, and a team of skilled, compassionate specialists.

Community Care Obstetrics/Gynecology, located in the Capital Region Health Park in Latham, is proud to offer the full spectrum of OB/GYN care – including routine/preventive care, routine and high-risk obstetrics, on-site ultrasound and minor procedures, and minimally invasive surgery such as laparoscopy and robotic surgery. Our physicians and advanced practitioners, assisted by our caring clerical and clinical team, collaborate to provide the best care for our patients. We provide health care to women of all ages, including preconception care, prenatal care, labor and delivery, after-birth care, assistance with family planning decisions, gynecological exams, management of common gynecologic problems, menopausal management, and counseling in health maintenance and disease prevention.

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